This project focuses on the development and change of democratic political competition in eastern Europe since 1990 until today. Building on literature that has largely seen eastern European politics as erratic, unstructured and in flux, the primary theoretical premise is that eastern European politics, despite their specific post-communist characteristics, follow a number of sociological and political regularities that can be theorized on the basis of our knowledge developed in western contexts. Consequently, this project sets out to map the patterns of political competition in eastern Europe over the last quarter century. The project theorizes the sources of ideological formation among eastern European citizens and political parties. It argues for considering the interacting role of sociological factors, well known to western political science, as structuring forces of eastern European politics. The theory discusses the role of economic preference formation, but also emphasizes the importance of non-economic factors. Specifically, the project focuses on the significant role of non-economic divides revolving around religion and ethnic diversity, as key sources of political structuring and preference formation in eastern Europe. The project develops a theoretical frame for understanding systemic change in the region. It formulates an argument about how historical non-economic conflicts, which came to importantly structure eastern European societies and party systems in the time of democratic transition in the 1990s, further underpin the recomposition on eastern European politics in the contemporary period, and inform new non-economic conflicts over national sovereignty and migration.
This research project investigates the impact of ethnic group identity on political competition in relatively stable democratic societies. It seeks to uncover the role that ethnic group identity plays in the formation of political preferences and behavior, both on the level of individuals, as well as on the level of their political representatives. It consequently studies ethnic minorities across Europe, focusing on their individual preferences, their voting patterns, and the orientations of political parties that represent ethnic minorities, and the roles they play within domestic party systems.
I suggest that ethnic minority groups behave contextually. Depending on the circumstances, ethnic minorities and their political representatives may work either towards building a multicultural liberal political order, or they may seek to dismantle it. The key to determining the political preferences and aims of ethnic groups and their representatives lies in the characteristics of the group and its relationship to political authority, which usually lies in the hands of the majority.
This project proceeds from my work on eastern European party competition:
Dealignment Meets Cleavage Theory
(with David Attewell, Liesbet Hooghe and Gary Marks)
The rise of a new divide on immigration and Europe raises fundamental questions about the character of party competition and the causal bases of voting. In this paper we suggest that those who support political parties established on the new divide—green and radical-Tan parties—have more structured partisan preferences than supporters of mainstream political parties. While the divide between mainstream political parties has softened with the decline of the class cleavage, that between green and radical-Tan parties is sharp, ideologically rooted, and socially structured. We consequently argue that a new political cleavage dividing those who support and those who oppose transnationalism has arisen. Among the implications of this neo-cleavage theory are: that the dynamism in party systems arises from exogenous social change; that change comes chiefly in the form of new political parties; that the decline of traditional cleavages does not invalidate cleavage theory; and that de-alignment is valid only for the period beginning with the decline of traditional cleavages in the 1970s to the rise of a transnational cleavage in the early 2000s.
Fuzzy or Veering? Party Positioning, Voter Congruence, and Electoral Support for Radical Right Parties in Western Europe
(with Jonathan Polk)
Do radical right parties present blurry economic stances, or have they clarified their positions while moving towards the economic left? This paper questions the strategic behavior of radical right parties in western Europe. We show that although expert placements of this party family on the economic dimension have become decidedly more centrist over time, the uncertainty surrounding these placements continues to be higher for the radical right than any other party family in Europe. We then move on to examine to what extent voter-party congruence on redistribution, immigration, and other issues of social lifestyle predict an individual's propensity to vote for the radical right compared to other parties. Although redistribution is the component of economic policy where the radical right has most substantially moved to the centre, our findings indicate that it remains party-voter congruence on immigration that drives support for radical right parties, while congruence levels for redistribution has insignificant effect. The paper concludes that while radical right parties seem to have included some clearly left-leaning economic proposals, which shifted the general expert views of these parties to the economic center, their overall economic profiles remain as blurry as ever.
(with Gary Marks)
The dimensional construction of political space is fundamental to the science of politics. Yet how many dimensions best describe public opinion is contested. This article suggests that issue selection is decisive for dimensional estimation. Because the major surveys of public opinion in contemporary democracies select different issues at contrasting levels of abstraction they produce widely divergent estimates of dimensionality. Consequently, this paper argues that the analyst must select the issues which produce dimensions, and that this choice—and the resulting dimensions—are useful or not in relation to the researcher’s purpose. The implications of this for dimensional simplification are decisive, for the structure one detects in public opinion depends not only on the substantive topics at hand, but also on their generality.